Two or Four? Chamber Impact Survey

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PennDOT is currently conducting an asset management study of the limited-access portion of Route 8 highway between Franklin and Barkeyville and it is expected to be completed in April 2018. This corridor is a main artery to the Venango Area.  Almost all freight to and from this region, even up to Warren, is transported along this stretch of Route 8.  The traffic study could ultimately result in a reduction of the size of Route 8 from four lanes to two.

Such a change would have a major impact on area businesses.  “As a business wanting to survive in Venango County, easy and efficient access to Interstate 80 is vital, not only to our company, but to our community as a whole,” remarked Greg Lander of Klapec Trucking Company. “This roadway is our life line to Interstate 80 and the United States. “

Industry, manufacturers, automobile sales, retailers, hardwood companies, scrap dealers, etc., all rely on this efficient access for truck traffic to move their cargo. It is also an essential connection for commuting employees that these companies rely on.

The study is being conducted by Michael Baker International and started earlier this spring.  A final report is expected by April 2018. “This expressway section of Route 8 was built in the 1970’s and has already exceeded its expected service life,” said PennDOT District 1 spokesman Jim Carroll. “It is in need of reconstruction, and a preliminary estimate is that could cost $35 million to $40 million.”

Carroll said the goal of the study isn’t to make the four-lane highway into a two-lane road, but rather to see what its needs are moving forward.

“The study is laying the groundwork for the project,” Carroll said. “The first perception was that we are doing the study to reduce it to two lanes. That is not the goal. The goal is to examine how the road best serves the region and how it serves the needs of the communities. It’s possible that the outcome could be reducing lanes, but that isn’t the purpose (of the study). The purpose is to look at the needs of the road, how it fits economic development, community aspirations and how it serves the region.”

The study will evaluate pavement and bridge conditions; analyze traffic and accident histories; develop projected traffic models; prepare cost estimates for alternatives and develop implementation and funding plans, Carroll said. The study also includes interviews with stakeholders – many of which have been completed – and opportunities for public review and comment in the coming months, Carroll said.

The Venango Chamber’s Advocacy Committee has begun reaching out to several local businesses to explore the potential impact of a lane reduction, anticipating that any consideration of this would have a negative impact on the local economy.

Representative Lee James shares, “An efficient highway infrastructure is vital to attracting new businesses, keeping existing businesses and ensuring a healthy economic future for the region. Cutting down a significant section of Route 8 from four lanes to two would do nothing but harm Venango County.”

Given that the viability of our area is directly related to access to Interstate 80, the Venango Chamber’s Advocacy Committee has begun reaching out to several local businesses to explore the potential impact of a lane reduction, anticipating that any consideration of this would have a negative impact on the local economy.

The objectives of the Advocacy Committee’s exploration are to first make certain businesses are aware of the study, and then to collect and report specific data, regarding impact of a two lane highway versus a four lane highway.

Chamber Director Susan Williams remarks, “The role of the Chamber is to be the voice of business.  We believe this is a great opportunity to better understand how our businesses use this corridor to move goods, attract and retain a regional workforce, and respond to emergency services.”

“We are developing a questionnaire, to be available in print or electronically, for businesses to respond. I am encouraged with each conversation that confirms many of our members have seen recent increases in business and anticipate this trend to continue,” she said. “We will be reaching out to our members and businesses across the region, but welcome any inquiries from those who wish to provide input.”

If you would like to take the questionnaire and inform us on how this change will affect your business or organization, please find the link at the top of this article. We also invite you to reach out to the Chamber at swilliams@venagochamber.org or (814) 676-8521.

 

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